Canon EF 50mm f1.4 USM Lens
15/03/09This lens was originally designed as a fast 'standard' prime lens for 35mm film SLRs and is now used in the same role on full frame DSLRs. It also finds favour as a short, fast telephoto on crop DSLRs. On a 1.6x crop camera this lens has an effective focal length of 80mm which many people use for head and shoulders portraiture work.
Canon produce three 50mm lenses - a f1.2, the f1.4 and a f1.8. The 50mm f1.4 is the one from of Canon's 'mid-range' line up. It feels well constructed but does not come supplied with a lens hood. Unlike it's less expensive cousin, the 50mm f1.8, it has a metal lens mount, a focus scale with depth of field markings and a USM motor for faster focussing. The USM motor in this lens is a bit unique. It's a 'micro' motor rather than a 'ring' motor. It still focusses quickly and reliably but there have been some reports of fragility. My copy has been fine and faultless.
The wide maximum aperture allows shooting in very low light conditions but care is needed as the depth of field at these settings is narrow. Wide open it is a little soft but the look is not unpleasant and has been described as dreamy. By f2 it seems to be sharp and is very sharp by f2.8. Out of focus highlights (bokeh) are very pleasantly rendered.
Compared to the 50mm f1.8 lens this one costs about 2.5 times as much. For that you get a lens that doesn't hunt so much when trying to focus in low light, is noticeably better built and which has a slightly wider maximum aperture. The f1.4 lens is roughly 1/5th the price of the f1.2 lens and for the extra money you again get an improvement in build quality and maximum aperture. For me the f1.4 had the right balance of reasonable cost with very good performance.
In conclusion, it is small, sharp, has a very wide aperture and is relatively inexpensive. If you need a 50mm lens I'd highly recommend it.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Ease of use: 5/5
Value for money: 5/5
Build quality: 4/5